Health > Mental Health >Hyperactivity
A hyperactive child is never still but constantly rushes around everywhere, impulsively starting one activity and then immediately abandoning it for another. It is quite exhausting for the parents, but fortunately treatment is available to calm such child
Hyperactivity is one of many symptoms that may be present in children with certain psychiatric problems. It can also be connected with brain damage, epilepsy, autism (mental disability when someone is turned in on themselves) and childhood schizophrenia (disintegration of the personality).
However, most people think of hyperactivity as a condition unconnected to other disorders with over activity as the main feature. This is known as the hyper kinetic syndrome. It is relatively rare and affects four times as many boys as girls.
Parents of a hyperactive child have a lot to content with. As well as being overactive, the child is often aggressive and finds difficulty in forming relationships with other children. He or she may be destructive and have sudden bursts of rage if thwarted, but a hyperactive child’s moods swing so suddenly that rage and persons of joy or miserly. The child’s concentration is so poor that he or she rarely does well at school and has many learning difficulties.
Over-activity may be caused by a disorder, such as autism, in which case there will be other symptoms or it may be the only symptom, as in the case of the hyper kinetic syndrome. Doctors are divided over what the cause of this condition is.
It is thought that it could be the result of an organic brain disorder or there could be a genetic link. Some therapists believe it to be a family problem which can only be dealt with by seeing the family as a whole and working out what aspect of the relationship might be causing the hyperactivity.
Most hyperactive children are overactive as babies, but the symptoms become most obvious when they start to walk. At this point the parents become aware of the disorganized way in which such a child constantly tears around.
The main symptom which becomes obvious as the child grows older is a complete lack of concentration and a very short attention span. The child is often below average intelligence and is late in starting to talk. He or she is often very clumsy, even when not being deliberately destructive, and his mood changes with bewildering rapidity.
The hyperactive child rarely gets on well with other children. He can’t concentrate long enough to join in games and is often very aggressive. At school the hyperactivity continues. The child has difficulty in learning to read and often has perceptional problems – finding it hard to tell left from right and to understand the relationship between shapes.
The main worry for the parents of a hyperactive child is that he will harm himself. The impulsive thoughtlessness of the hyperactive child means that he is quite capable of dashing into the road or tumbling out of a window.
His aggressive behaviour with other children means he has to be carefully watched in case he hurts them. Babies in his own family may be at risk – particularly if he becomes jealous of his parent’s attention to the baby, feeling that they are more impatient with him and more loving towards the less demanding younger child.
Another less tangible danger is that of relationships within the family deteriorating, and his parents being angry as if he were being deliberately naughty. The hyperactive child needs love coupled with firmness, not punishment. The more secure be feels at home, the better able he is to cope with social pressures caused by his ability to get on with other children and his learning problems at school.
Hyperactivity responds well to drug treatment. In some cases, tranquillizers are used with good results. Amphetamine-based drugs that stimulate adults often have the reverse effect on children, so these may be prescribed for their tranquilizing effect. Black coffee may be used in a similar way to calm a hyperactive child, whereas it would normally keep an adult awake, though a doctor should be consulted before this is given.
Treatment with drugs is carefully monitored by the doctor as they may have side-effects and it is sometimes necessary to try them out before the best is found.
Behaviour therapy may be used to try and improve the child’s attention and concentration. If the child suffers from anxiety then psychotherapy, often involving the whole family, may help. In any case, parents will generally need help themselves in learning how to handle their hyperactive child. Remedial education to help the child cope with learning difficulties is often needed.
The hyperactive child tends to become calmer as he grows older, and over activity has almost always ceased by adolescence. But what may happen at this stage is that the over-activity is replaced by under activity and lethargy, and the child will now need help to develop drive and initiative.
Because the child has been unable to build relationships with friends, his anti-social problems often remain and need to be dealt with. Learning continues to be a problem and remedial lessons may still be necessary.
However, most parents feel such a sense of relief once the over-activity itself has stopped being a problem that they are able to devote their energies to dealing with any other problems that the child may still have to cope with.